If the federal government adopts an “overly prescriptive” approach to drone technology, an Intel executive told United States lawmakers on Thursday that the company may take its drone research and development operation and relocate overseas.
Intel’s announcement came during a discussion held on Capitol Hill, conducted by Representative Michael Burgess and the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade. The hearing was attended by drone advocates, industry executives, enthusiasts and law professors to discuss the hot topic.
Typically, when the subject of drones or unmanned aircraft technology is raised, local and federal governments, tech companies, retail giants and hobbyists often find themselves in conflict with each other. On one side of the conflict, there is the excitement of innovation, the future of package delivery and the the passion of amateur drone operators. On the other side, safety and privacy concerns are raised.
Burgess started off the discussion by acknowledging the importance of drones and the rapid growth and progress of such technologies. He noted that analysts’ forecasts that consumers will purchase 1 million drones next year, many of which will be sold during this holiday season.
Burgess pointed out that, “Certainly drones go where people can’t. A neighbor can fly a drone over your fence to pester you and invade your privacy - and there have been disputes ending in drones being shot out of the air by annoyed citizens. There are interesting questions around whether, how, and under what circumstances a drone-owner can be identified and held to account for his or her behavior.”
While Burgess painted a picture of where the drone industry is at today, Intel’s senior vice president and manager of new technology, Joshua Walden, argued via written testimony that the federal government’s approach is “overly prescriptive.”
Walden referenced the special permission that must be granted to companies in order to test their technologies in the air. Walden argued that, “A federal government approach that is overly prescriptive regarding the deployment of new hardware and software will deter the private sector’s ability to invent and compete in the marketplace.”
He further noted that, “Worse, it will drive us to relocate our business planning and R&D overseas, where we are being welcomed by foreign countries eager for investment in this new technology area.”
How this thinly veiled “threat” affects federal and state authorities remains to be seen.